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Sorry, I've been so MIA...

As my 39th week of pregnancy arrives...I can definitely see how far I've fallen from blogging and the farm.  Lately, it's just been enough to get to work, cook and maybe clean the house.  I promise next year will be filled with lots of blog posts and pictures! 

Solar panels are up and working!  I'm so glad to that Jon was able to get these up, because it gives us a much steadier supply of power.  And they are kinda pretty to look at...

We also have a new addition to the farm.  It's a John Deere 4010, which should help us out immensely with snow removal and the tilling of the garden. 

I'm trying to be patient and wait for our little farm girl to arrive, but as you can see I'm getting larger by the minute...

Hurry up, little one!  Your momma and daddy can't wait to meet you!


Happy Thanksgiving from Open Sky Farm!

And there are two turkeys around the farm that are very grateful that they got pardoned this year...

Three cheers for the remaining two turkeys that made it through Max's turkey eating phase...!


our latest visitor

I was working the other day and I heard Max making a racquet. But not his normal, incessant barking. So I go outside to find this:

We have a visiting cat that Max is trying to welcome to the farm but, apparently, the cat isn't feeling very social. He's the black spot in the crook of the tree.

Even the ewes came over to see what all the commotion was about.


My little solar project

By now, I think most of you know that our farm is off-grid. Meaning we have no power coming in from a power company. Our power comes from a 1kw wind turbine and/or a gas generator that we plug in when the power is low. Although it's really windy out here, it's not windy all the time and it's usually not windy during the summer. Which is when the sun is shining brightest. So the landlord has agreed to put up solar panels. I offered to install them myself to keep the costs down. Of course, I know very little about setting up solar but, like everything out here, I've been learning as I go. I had to get the water lines in but now that I have that pretty much taken care of, I can turn my attention to the solar. Here's a pretty schematic I drew of the project as as whole. It's not drawn to scale but it helped for me to see it all drawn out. Plus, I thought for sure I was going to need help and I figured I could email this to someone to give them an idea of what I was doing.

I attempted to put the panels up this last weekend, with the help of Aaron and Dave. We set everything up: got the racking hardware ready, the solar panels all lined up, one person on the roof, one person on the ground and one person going back and forth. As soon as we were on the roof, the temp dropped 10-20 degrees and the wind picked up.  No problem though, we (slowly) brought up our first panel and started to install it on the top racks. And that's when we realized that they sent me the wrong size clamps. Problem... So back down we went and put away everything we had just set up. I called yesterday and I'm going to be lucky if I can get the right size clamps by this weekend. I may have to "modify" the clamps they sent me in the meantime and then swap them out with the right ones, when they come in. Because I really want to have them up by the end of the holiday weekend.

(Max is the worst photo bomber ever...)

We needed to get the power from the panels to the battery shed, so I waited until I was working on the water lines to trench across the driveway. As you can see, above, I managed to hit two shallow waterlines in the process. Which is one of the reasons why I really wanted to get water lines put in (and a shutoff valve to the existing water lines). With our winters, I find it hard to believe that these pipes won't be frozen solid for a good bit of the winter. I'm just hoping they don't leak. I did cover these repair sections with pipe insulation.

Even after the panels are up, I still need to wire everything up in the battery shed and the granary. Although, before I can do that I need to figure out how to strip wiring when dealing with 6 gauge wires in a PVC protective casing...

This little fella should put out up to 200 watts of power. Combine that with his five buddies and we will have as much as 1200 watts of solar power to go with our 1000 watts of wind power!


two blogs or not two blogs

that is the question...
Farmer Jon here - Our most recent posts bring to light an interesting contrast of topics on the blog. I should preface this conversation by saying there's nothing wrong with a little variety. In fact our whole farming operation is based on the health and sustainability of proper diversity. However, it got us thinking about whether, for the benefit of the reader, we should have two blogs. One for Jamie's projects and ponderings and one for farm updates and happenings. That's not to say that Jamie won't post on the farm blog and that I won't pop on Jamie's blog with updates on my latest knitting project. OK, so the latter isn't very likely but I will occasionally strike up a conversation on pertinent social issues.

We are in the process of having someone make a logo for the farm (and it looks AWESOME). We've posted the draft versions on our Facebook page, just click here if you'd like to see.  Which means, we will be working on a farm website in the near future. And with a farm website, comes the opportunity to incorporate a new farm blog. I know you're probably thinking that we don't post enough on one blog, as it is, let alone two. And that's fair. But I think that will help us to generate more content.

Please, give us your opinions on this. We would love to get your feedback. In fact, we'd love to get your feedback all the time. We really want this to become an interactive experience for all. If you don't feel comfortable posting, you can always email us: girlonafarm@gmail.com.


Oh Maximus...

Some days you are such a sad sad puppy...

He's had a rough month.  And our pocketbook has had a rough month as well.  First he had his little stay at the vets office getting IV fluids.  And then he goes and gets hit by a car...by our landowner nonetheless. 

He's okay now, but he was pretty shaken up.  He had recently gotten into the bad habit of chasing and swooping at cars when they were in the farm yard.  He still won't go out of the farmyard due to the electric fence, but he was getting pretty close to cars as they drove into the yard.  We thought we were making progress on getting him to stop that bad habit, but one night when we weren't paying attention he got a little too close.

We heard him yelp and saw him come running up to the house, dripping blood.  Turns out he broke a toe and needed stitches to repair some lacerations on the inside of his thigh.  Sigh...there goes another $500...

And worse of all, he needed to wear that dang collar to keep him from licking at his wounds.  And he was not a happy camper.  He's such a good dog that he always let us put it on him without much fuss, but you could tell he hated it.  We would give him a little reprieve from it at night when we were watching him, but it had to stay on the rest of the time.  I think we FINALLY have his wounds healed up nicely.  Because after two weeks of having to wash off that dang collar so he could come inside, I was getting pretty tired of it.

Dear Max, we love you lots, but please please....could you stay out of the vets office for a couple months??????


Finally...here is my finished embroidery project!

Finally...but it's actually been done for a few months now.  I'm just now getting around to framing it and taking pictures of it.

If anyone isn't familiar with Posie Gets Cozy, please visit!  It's such a great blog that I've been following for the past couple years.  It's filled with pictures of great food, embroidery and knitting projects and the life of Alicia Paulson.  I bought the pattern off her website and made a few tweaks.  Her original project is worked crewel wool, which I'm not sure I can get locally.  Thankfully, she included the equivalents in DMC embroidery thread.  I did change a few of the colors around since I used a different colored background as well. 

I've never done an embroidery project before because I've always been too intimidated.  I can't believe I've waited this long!  I love the fact that you basically can make it up as you go along and see the colors filling in between the outline.  I've done cross stitch in the past, but this is so much better.

This was a true labor of love for my little girl.  This piece is waiting to be hung in her nursery.  I hope someday she looks at it and feels the love that her mama sewed into each and every letter.

Extreme closeup!

My fingers are just itching for the next project...


an ode to livestock shelters

On our farm, they come in all shapes and sizes and most of which are being used for a purpose other than what it was originally intended. Someday we will replace them with better looking versions but not anytime soon.

This is in the ewe lamb pen. It's the stack of free glass doors that I picked up with four glass doors arranged against it to make a lean-to. And an old sink for extra support... I put this together when we had that cold rain and sleet recently. It was in the middle of my work day so I didn't have time to actually build something. And I have to admit, it's pretty sturdy.

This is a large dog house I bought for 10-15 bucks. I put this in the ram lamb pen the same day that I put together that lean-to. I needed a quick solution and it works great. They both fit inside comfortably (or at least they look comfy).

Here is another portable, multipurpose shelter that I'm putting together. The previous person who lived here left some insulated panels (like a SIP, only not as heavy duty) lying around. I needed to do something with them because they weren't enclosed on all sides and the insulation was disappearing. All I need to do is put a roof on it. But I don't have enough tin lying around, so that's going to require further investigation.

Here are the two chicken shelters (aka chicken tractors). Each is made out of entirely different materials but the goal was the same - lightweight and sturdy. You can make things lightweight and sturdy but it's hard to do so cheaply, which was what I was trying to do. I like my latest version made out of electrical conduit because it's lighter than the first one made out of wood and I feel that it may be slightly sturdier too. These are not for winter use. Their main purpose it to protect from predators and offer cover from the sun and rain.

And of course you've already seen my first portable, multipurpose shelter. It's in the new hog pen now.

I've been wanting to try this out for a while but they are hard to come by. I would often see ads on Craigslist for free pickup toppers but was never able to respond quick enough. Well I finally did and this is what resulted. Instant hog shelter! The opening is slightly shorter than the boars so they have to slip in but it gets taller after the opening. My intent is to put it on skids of some sort (railroad ties, 4x4's, posts, ???). I just picked up a second one the other day. It's a little shorter but it will work great on railroad ties. All for the low, low price of zero.


Starting Your Own Herd

 If only it were that easy...

Have a great weekend!


playin in the dirt

Farmer Jon here - As we've been eluding to, there's been another large project underway at Open Sky Farm. This latest endeavor was an effort to bury waterlines out to the pasture so that we would have fresh water for the cattle that wouldn't freeze. Well it all started out about a month ago. I rented a trencher and talked a couple good friends (Aaron and Dave) into coming over to help. Well, by the end of the first day we had only trenched 180 feet and the trencher was broke. That 180 feet was from 6 hours of trenching. The ground was just so hard that we were barely moving.And I mean that literally. You had to stare at the tracks on the trencher to tell if you were moving. So that was weekend one 180 feet of trench, a broken trencher and a couple hand-dug, holes in the ground.

The place I was renting from offered them over the weekend but only charged you one day if you stayed under the allotted 8 machine hours. So my hands were tied to until the next weekend. And of course, when I called to rent the trencher again, someone else had actually broken the trencher and they recommended a mini-excavator instead. So, I was off to the races for weekend two. I had told my Aaron and Dave to stay home because I had some folks coming to help that I was going to test out as possible part-time/as-needed help around the farm. And guess what, nobody showed! So I had no help but that was ok because I was running the mini-excavator. Which was going about as quick as the trencher, it was just making a much bigger mess. Well, guess what (again), the fan belt broke on the mini-excavator so I was out of commission AGAIN! Two weekends in a row my equipment broke down on Saturday so I couldn't do anything the rest of the weekend. So I was forced to take a day off of work to try and get some work done. Luckily, we have such an amazing family that it just so happened that my mom and step-dad were wanting to come up to help. So we got a lot done on that Tuesday with Jerry running the mini-excavator and  Deb digging holes and running into town to get the parts that I needed. 

So that brings us to weekend number three. I talked Aaron and Dave into coming back out again and I was feeling good about the weekend. And guess what, it actually went ok. We had a few ordeals that took all day instead of 30 minutes but that's just how things go. So we got a lot done that Saturday and then on Sunday I was able to trench across the driveway and start pushing dirt back into the trenches. I took the min-excavator back on Monday with .1 machine hours to spare.

The pictures below are how the place looks as of yesterday. With the couple days of rain, it has become a huge mess. It also means there has been a lot of settling of dirt so I'm going to need more of it. So I may or may not be renting some equipment again. There's still a lot to be done but I'm cautiously optimistic that I can get most of it taken care of this weekend.

I even dug a shallow trench across the farmyard for the solar project. But I'll talk more about that later.


What I've been up to lately...

Our lives have been filled with a little bit of dirt and a LOT of mud now...here's a sneak peak.

That's fun stuff right there, but I will let Jon talk about what's happening.

This is what I've been up to lately...trying to clear out our freezers!  When we brought home all of our processed roosters, our freezer space became a premium. 

So, I've been making some homemade tomato soup with some tomatoes that I froze last year.

This is the lazy way to preserve tomatoes when a person gets sick of canning.  I much prefer hot pack canned tomatoes, especially to use in chili and soup.  But there is something to be said for the ease of coring tomatoes and popping them in the freezer.  These might have been a wee bit freezer burnt, but I managed.  And the great thing about freezing them like this, is the skins slide right off when you let them thaw in water.  Super simple!

I've also been making lots of breakfast wraps.  We are overflowing with eggs right now and I can't keep on top of them.  These duck eggs had been sitting in our fridge for awhile, so it was time for them to go!

I just love the color of duck eggs.  And they taste exactly the same as chicken eggs.  I can't tell a difference at all.  The only way I can tell the difference between a chicken and a duck egg is how hard the shell is when I break it and the viscosity of the duck eggs.  When you break a duck egg, the egg whites string along forever, which is I bet why they are so good for baking.

Can you tell if these are chicken or duck eggs? 


we're still here!

Sorry for the delay in postings. We've been busy, busy, busy around the farm. I started a large project which has turned into a MUCH LARGER project due to numerous problems. But we're on the home run stretch. I hope...
Jamie will be have a post up later today with pictures but she was experiencing technical difficulties last night.


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